The first time I did this was for the ASCD conference in March. I got so much from the links and resources posted and the on-line conversations, that I wondered the relative value of attending a conference in person with its requisite costs and time spent away from home. (Although I do wish I had been there for Maya Angelo’s speech!)
I’ve even wondered about trying out a parallel virtual conference model, e.g. during the next Learning Forward Summer Conference I could gather for a couple hours a day with some of my local educators; we would all sit with our computers and stalk the conference discussing interesting thoughts and helpful resources. Sounds promising . . . I’ll write about it if we do it.
But on Saturday, and in the residual days following, I’ve been truly wishing I could have been there. Unlike what I usually experience at the conferences I have attended with some regularity over the years (the Coalition of Essential School’s Fall Forum or School Reform Initiative’s Winter Meeting) I am pretty sure I wouldn’t have known a soul. So it really would have pushed my newly defined introvert-self (thank you Susan Cain) to branch out and spend the day making new friends and colleagues, but I think it would have been worth it.
However, New Jersey is two flights and a day away so instead I had to “mingle” from my screen and comfy olive loveseat. (Speaking of New Jersey, what a week! Cory Booker, Edscape and some single-sex marriages! – but I digress).
All this makes me wonder about the merit of traveling to national conferences v. attending local, and preferably embedded PD, v. this new type of virtual PLN learning. Now I have attended many a conference – as both an attendee and a presenter — and they have been extremely valuable for me. I wouldn’t be the educator I am today without them. But I know when I go I am acutely aware of the money and time investment that I (or my school) is making and I work hard to “earn” my way. Unfortunately, that is not true of everyone.
Often schools, flush with federal or foundational grant money, send large contingents of teachers and administrators to these events only to have substantial time away spent sightseeing. (How many of you have watched a series of coinciding Facebook photos spring up from the city of the event?) Even for those groups that do attend vigilantly and enthusiastically, the learning often evaporates as soon as the hit the reality of school life. All those well meaning, “I’m definitely going to do . . . .” evolving into “what was the name of that session I attended?” and then finally to “which conference was in Chicago in 2011?”
So when reading Jay Eitner’s reaction to Edscape http://principaleit.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/its-time-to-spike-the-koolaid/ , I wondered how I would respond as a Principal or as someone coaching a Principal about whether or not they should allocate the time and resources needed to send a teacher or a teacher team to a national conference. What I came up with was a qualified yes – assuming I had the funds. Yes by all means go, but under these conditions:
- Meet with administrator beforehand and define purpose and focus
- Meet with administrator afterward to report out (see if those goals were met and what other key learners occurred)
- One commitment to “Pay it forward” – e.g. share the learning with the larger school community
- One commitment to change personal practice
I don’t think this list is to onerous to expect, in fact I believe that most teachers would appreciate the interest and support it represents.
As for me, maybe Edscape 2014 . . . .